By Nathan C. Vance
I only know one thing that helps in every situation. There’s one thing that I cling to when I’m angry, upset, afraid, confused, or otherwise. I only know one truly color blind man in all human history. He was the man at the well waiting for the Samaritan woman. The man that gave sight to the blind, life to the dead, and truly set the captive free. His name is Jesus, the light of the world, and the man quoted as asking forgiveness for the angry mob that shouted crucify as he bled and died for their salvation. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He’s the only way.
This message was written in different words by legendary coach Tony Dungy. It was the take I wanted to share immediately following the events that transpired all across this country on Sunday. I was moved by his faith. Far more than I could ever be, Tony Dungy was/is angry, over George Floyd, of course, but much more over a life lived in a country that only looks at him, no matter his beliefs, his accomplishments, or his character, and sees a black man. Angry surely to have been raised in a country that used to look and see far less than that.
What he stands for is real! I was so lifted by his post, and then I mistakenly read the angry comments below and saw so many people, particularly white people, chastising this man because of his faith in Jesus, calling it a fairy tale, and missing the gravity of Mr. Dungy’s powerful words, and his powerful faith. How dare they! Have they experienced life in his shoes? Do they have faith in anything, in spite of the adversity, that he maintains?
Frankly, he’s the type of leadership we need. No really, how dare they!!
And then I watched videos, one after the other depicting peaceful black protestors, standing for what they believe, for justice, and fairness, and equality…and there too, white faces. Those white faces, spray painting buildings while black people stood pleading with them not to do so. White faces having spray cans taken from them by people like Jon Jones whose interest is in protecting the cities that people like him have worked hard to build. White faces passing out bricks with instructions of violence and destruction. There have been videos of Black shop owners standing armed guard over their businesses, not trusting the peaceful gatherings to stay peaceful, and other black business owners frustrated, cleaning the wreckage left in wake of destruction. And black faces killed in the line of duty, trying to protect the places they call home. Shame on the people destroying what these people have worked so hard to build. How dare they! Many of these, white people bussed in from all over to each individual city, with the sole intent of hijacking the message that these peaceful people are trying to get across…for their own intent.
I know, that’s the conspiracy theory, only it’s not. It’s what people saw happening—in Nashville, and reported in LA, and witnessed in Cleveland, and Atlanta, and Minneapolis, and on and on. White anarchists deflecting the pain and hope of progress into something ugly. Turning peace into chaos. And again, voices never truly heard.
And then go to your social media—and you see it. African Americans working to express emotion. Working through their personal process, the history of slavery, of belittlement, of inhuman and unequal treatment, trying to say it exactly right so someone like me, that isn’t black, and can’t know, can actually understand. But as you go through, those voices are overshadowed by, you guessed it, white people. Yelling. Overtalking their black and brown counterparts. And what are those drawing attention to? Not the plight of African Americans, but what their real passion is, President Donald J. Trump. A man, like him or dislike him, who is little more than a footnote in this story. But hey, never miss an opportunity I guess (for both sides of the aisle).
What the focus should be on is the mayors in cities with persistent targeting of people of color and their role in this pattern of behavior. In Minneapolis, who recruited, vetted, hired, trained, evaluated, and led the officers who murdered George Floyd? In the city of Baltimore, my heart broke last year when an African American father posted a picture of his child sitting in a classroom with no heat wearing a winter coat to keep from freezing. Seriously, who runs that school? District? City? And who represents those people federally? How can such a circumstance exist? Why are murder rates in Chicago what they are? How do people even exist in the housing allotted to them in places like South Chicago, or Harlem, or LA? Where is the change in those corners of the United States? Rather than taking more pot shots at a flawed man who inherited a terribly flawed and emotionally charged country, why not ask these questions and demand more of the people tasked with helping these areas? Micro politics matter far more in these places than federal.
I’m not black. It’s not my time to talk, and yet, I am. I’m sorry to whoever’s voice isn’t heard because of me using mine. I know that’s not fair. Please forgive me. But I want someone in whatever tiny corner of influence I have to hear my thoughts. And I just needed to say them.
If I were someone with a real voice at the frontlines of these movements, rather than hijack the moment for my own, ‘white lives matter too,” or “never Trump” sentiments, I believe I would be making demands to the office of the President. I would do his favorite thing and make a deal. That deal would include the following: Federal funding for better education systems starting in the 200 poorest communities in the country. I would demand higher pay for teachers in these places and added incentives to those educators willing to take the challenge of helping. I would demand Ron Clark to lead the school conversions in those places. Next, I would address the housing. Kids have to have a chance. If they are consumed by drugs and gangs by age ten, the education doesn’t really matter. The ability to live free of the tyranny of street oppressors is a must. Entice the real estate mogul to take the challenge of establishing better government housing in lower rise buildings and aiding community leaders in truly cleaning up their streets. Then I would get to police, demanding every police officer in the United State submit to psychiatric evaluation during recruitment and annually every year they’re on the force. I would ask that federal money be given to recruit and hire black and brown police officers today. Expand budgets. Extend manpower. Change the dynamic of these forces from predominantly white to a true representation of our population. It would also include immediate termination for manually turning off body cameras in the line of duty. And finally, I would demand more federal money for entrepreneurs in urban communities; especially to people of color. Small businesses make this country go. And they help build a tax base for areas where tax money has traditionally left for nearby suburbs. Investing in abandoned people and abandoned communities is the infrastructure this nation needs to be great.
For anyone insisting before asking that Trump won’t listen, they clearly haven’t listened. His presidency has been all about the economy. He loves the markets. He loves when they are healthy. And a deal of this magnitude would cement his legacy for ages to come. He is too vain to ignore it. He would boast that it’s his idea, but if all of those changes came, today, that would be among the most earth-shattering legislations in U.S. history. Rather than a slogan of change it would be a message of change. Regardless of where positive impact comes from, it’s change that we need. Too many would be angry and outraged if this deal were done because their candidate didn’t do it. That’s a problem. Shouting about Trump in the midst of 500 years of pain is a problem. Destruction over solution is a problem. And white over-talking black is a continuing theme and problem that has been responsible for much of the plight of the African American community.
And then, after I made my voice heard in the political realm, I would turn to the truth. Decay has come as we have turned to sin. There is a drug problem across our land. There is a promiscuity problem in our land. There is a lawlessness problem in our land. There is a violence problem in our land. And it is all described, outlined, and predicted in the Bible. As Tony Dungy pointed out, the enemy is Satanic and its spiritual. And as a nation, if we hope to prosper in the future, the church must rise up in love, the nation repent, and turn away from wickedness. Otherwise, America, like Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome, The Holy Roman Empire, The Ottomans, etc. will become history rather than the current event.
Where’s the connection? For me, the connection comes from my childhood baby sitter, when I lived hundreds of miles from here. I’ll only refer to him here as Uncle Nat. Uncle Nat had migrated west from Harlem. He had been in real legal trouble and wanted a different life. His hair had started to gray, but his eyes were keen, and his huge hands were hard. Nat sort of strutted naturally when he walked. He was one of a kind.
He became my babysitter when I was about five or six years old after attending our church for a while. Maybe a year. My dad was a pastor and worked two jobs to support ministry. Usually still visiting the sick in the hospital after my brother and I were in bed asleep. We had to have a place to go, a place where we were safe. That place, at that time, for my dad, was with members of his church, Nat and his wife Liz. People he knew, and people he trusted.
I would ask Uncle Nat to tell me stories about his life. I wanted to know where he came from. I wanted to know why his skin was so dark and mine so light. Why he talked different and walked different. I noticed that people could become uncomfortable around Nat, not my family of course, but people in the community. People seemed nervous around him, almost afraid, which was silly to me, Uncle Nat was one of the nicest guys I’d ever met. He wouldn’t answer me mostly. He’d shrug me off. “My life was no good, son. I’ve been a bad man, and done bad things. You don’t need to know those things. You’ve got a genius mind,” he’d say, “you’ll do good things.”
Uncle Nat would laugh at me because I refused to eat collard greens, but I loved pork, like he loved pork. “From the rooter to the tooter,” he loved to say. He would just talk to me, like I was on his level. And I knew he loved me. And he made me feel safe. I learned, later in life that Nat had run a prostitution ring in Harlem in his previous life. He confided once that violence never bothered him, because he was the most violent of all. He reassured me that I never had to be scared with him around, there wasn’t anyone or anything that could hurt me, cause Uncle Nat could deal with them. No problem.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is what changed him. He had lived a life of crime in the most evil setting possible. He was filled with hate when he was young, and the world paid the price for his anger. But because he met Jesus, my life benefitted from his love. Nat is a reason why I feel compelled to write this—because black people are people. They love, laugh, and live. And it’s not fair how, as a race, they have been marginalized, manipulated and discarded for votes by politicians who largely ignore their words and their needs.
And Jesus died for each and every one of them. And he died for you reading this. And for every person who has ever walked a day on this planet. And for every person never given the opportunity to spend a living day on this planet. People use his name in vain, a lot. And it makes me so mad. Don’t politicize, Jesus, fall on your knees and worship him. Pray for his love and salvation and grace. Pray that He comes in and brings peace, to you personally, and then to the world around you. Because the alternative isn’t working, doesn’t work, won’t ever work.
Jesus is the only way. He’s waiting for all of us to turn our lives over to him. In so many ways, we’re all my Uncle Nat. His life changed, and it damn sure mattered to me. It mattered enough to stop looting and start solving problems. It mattered enough to let black leaders talk and hear what they have to say, rather than over-talking them because never Trump feels right to you. His life mattered because there’s a God in heaven that gave everything he had for my Uncle Nat, for me, and for you. That love can change the world.